Prom is one of the most highly anticipated high school rites of passage.
Each spring, high schoolers across Western New York delight in freshly pressed tuxedos and ball gowns, sweet-smelling corsages and boutonnieres, delicious buffet dinners and loud music blasting from the DJ booth. And best of all, each boy is guaranteed several slow dances with his female date.
But what about the kids who don’t fit the typical prom mold? What happens if the boy wants to take another boy? Or a girl wants to go with another girl, clad in a tuxedo? Although many schools are accepting of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples during prom events, prom can still be an uncomfortable, lonely or anxiety-ridden event for “out” couples, as my friends and I have experienced firsthand. Furthermore, even if LGBT teens are allowed to attend their schools’ proms with same-sex dates, these couples and even their allies are still sometimes subject to bullying and stereotyping, which frequently escapes chaperones’ notice.
All that is about to change.
LGBT teenagers will be able to attend prom without any fear of harassment or discrimination this year. On Friday, Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York (GLYS) will host what is believed to be the area’s first LGBT-friendly prom from 7 to 11 p.m.
Marvin Henchbarger, executive director of GLYS, is thrilled to be hosting a “safe yet fun” LGBT event.
“At our Diversity Prom, you can come and relax,”Henchbarger said. “You don’t have to worry about who you are. We know that not every LGBT student has the luxury of being out and feeling safe.”
Aside from one minor off-color comment at last year’s senior prom, I felt welcomed by my student body once I arrived at the event.
Still, as an LGBT student, I have sometimes felt anxious about attending school events with same-sex dates.
Williamsville North student Alexa Gardner shares my sentiment.
“I’m excited to not feel afraid of being bullied at the Diversity Prom,” she said. “Plus, I’ll get to meet lots of LGBT teens in Western New York.”
I am excited about attending GLYS’ prom because this time the situation will be radically different. I will no longer be the awkward minority.
In fact, GLYS has gone to great lengths to protect its promgoers. Since rabble-rousers armed with bullhorns and offensive signs have invaded LGBT Pride events in the past, GLYS has hired an LGBT-friendly security team to monitor the dance and ensure everyone’s safety. Not only is the security team LGBT-friendly, but the team is comprised of diverse workers who have screened similar events in the past.
Aside from the extensive security team, the Diversity Prom, which will take place at Asbury Hall, will still encompass the best parts of typical proms: food and fun. For only $10 at the door, students ages 14-19 will be able to enjoy food, dancing and dressing up. A photo booth also will be set up for guests.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this event,” Henchbarger said. She is extremely grateful for the community’s support.
And on behalf of LGBT teens all over Western New York, so am I.
For more information about the Diversity Prom, visit www.glyswny.org or call 855-0221.
Cari Hurley is a junior at Williamsville North High School.